Even though we are a few weeks away from the official opening of deer hunting season – we have been hunting and killing them with our cars all year long. There were 6,560 vehicle-deer crashes in Southeast Michigan in 2009 – that is up from 6,278 in 2008. That figure represents over five percent of all crashes in 2009. Unlike many other crash statistics that continue to go down, car-deer crashes continue to increase despite the efforts of many.
Deer crashes occur most frequently during October, November, and December on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn. In 2009, there were 10 fatalities involving deer in the state – down from 12 in 2008 – at least that statistic is going down – and all involved motorcycles.
Deer crashes are more prevalent now for a couple of reasons — previously rural areas are now developed. But the biggest reason is that the statewide deer herd is four times larger than in was in 1970 and 10 times larger in Southeast Michigan! This year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment estimates the deer herd to be 1.8 million!
Oakland County had the most vehicle-deer crashes in the seven-county SEMCOG region with 1,947 and ranks second in Michigan behind only Kent County. In addition to being deadly, deer crashes are costly, costing us at least $130 million per year. The average insurance claim is about $2,100 in damage, usually to the front end.
So be careful! If you encounter a deer in the roadway, do not swerve out of your lane to avoid it. It's generally safer to hit the deer than to run off the road or risk injuring another motorist. Sounds barbaric, but it is true.